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Labors of Love

  • Posted on September 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Today is Labor Day in the U.S. It’s the day we set aside to show our support for all the people who labor to make this country great, from the people who collect our trash (who don’t have to work today) to the people who sell us our cars (who do have to work today). The United States of America is founded on hard work and the principle of individuals receiving their due for their labor.

I get that. I appreciate all the people who spend their time laboring for their means. As one of these people, I know how important it is to get recognition for the work that we do. On the other hand, I remember what it was like when I was the stay-at-home parent. I was a mom. Aside from sporadic efforts to write a novel, a mom was all I was in most peoples’ eyes and people seemed to go out of their way to make me feel inadequate because that was all I did.

Recently, my husband was asked, “Do you work?” He replied, “I’m a stay-at-home dad to three kids with disabilities, so yeah, I work. I just don’t get paid for it.”

I think about people like my husband. I think about the people who would love to work, but who don’t have the opportunity, not because we’ve trashed our economy, but because they were never valued within that economy. I think about the recent divorcees who have kids to support and who have “no skills” because they’ve been stay-at-home parents for most of their adult lives. I think about the people who never got the chance to develop even the most basic work skills. I think about the people who slide through life, doing odd jobs, migrating from one place to another, homeless and seemingly helpless.

I think about how labor in this country has become such an “us vs. them” issue. I think of labor unions and glass ceilings and income gaps. I think about all we accomplish on a day-to-day basis and all we fail to accomplish after decades of government programs and special interest initiatives. I think about the state of this country and the state of this world.

I think about the book I have written, which tells my story, and the books I plan to write, which will share my ideas about how to remake all the things I’ve seen. I think about the myriad forms of diversity and I think about neurodiversity in particular. I think about how society weights people to determine who will get opportunities to pursue their dreams and how the weights are invariably against people who are “too different,” and I think about how people who are “too different” are often the sources of our most profound innovations.

I see a world in need of a new respect for labor—not the labor we celebrate today, but of the labors of love so many people engage in in so many different ways. I want to celebrate the hope that this world can be a better place for all of us. I want to celebrate the people who work so hard to make it happen.

Thoughts on Labor

  • Posted on August 30, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Today starts the celebration of Labor Day (by which we mean Labor Weekend) in our little city. There is an abundance of fun, family-friendly activities which we will probably avoid in their entirety. The surprising thing is that most of them are going to be free!

It seems ironic to celebrate Labor Day in a city with abundant labor and far too few jobs. It’s even more ironic for me to celebrate Labor Day when the right to work is still a right reserved. It’s reserved for fully-able, fully-functioning adults with far too few exceptions. A lot of people with disabilities—even mild disabilities that require no overt accommodations—are finding it especially difficult to find work in this difficult economy.

When I think about it, I just can’t find a reason to celebrate. Labor Day doesn’t celebrate people like my husband, who chooses not to work outside the home or even for pay inside the home. Labor Day doesn’t celebrate people like me, who freelance and compete in an international market that drives my earnings down and down and down. Labor Day doesn’t celebrate many of my friends, who want to work but aren’t given the chance to.

So, what’s to celebrate? The power of the unions? Bah humbug! Their power is waning anyway and I for one am glad to see it go. If only the unions would loosen their strangle hold on my community a little more, maybe we could turn this economy around.

So I’m opting out. Indefinitely. Until the right to work is more than words on paper, until a person’s disabilities aren’t a hindrance to gainful employment, well then…I’ll be working my way through Labor Day.

The End of Summer, The Beginning of Labor

  • Posted on September 6, 2011 at 6:02 PM

According to the equinox, summer doesn’t end in the United States until September 23, but the boys have already had their first day back to school.  Then, they had three days off before resuming their normal school schedules today (Tuesday).  Monday was Labor Day, where we celebrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”  This holiday also marks the unofficial end of summer.

Labor Day started in 1894 after the deadly Pullman Strike.  I must admit I have mixed feelings about such a celebration.  On the one hand, recognizing the mistakes we’ve made (like the military killing civilians exercising their freedoms) is one thing; if that were common knowledge then it would be all for the good.  On the other hand, requiring everyone to essentially put their lives on hold for a day to honor the power of a specific group of political activists is not something I really support, especially when the creation of such a holiday was politically motivated.  It would be like the difference between Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day we honor his contributions to our society by recognizing his birthday (sort of), and Affirmative Action Day, which would honor the political success of a particular collection of special interests; or like the difference between Memorial Day, where we honor the sacrifice of the service men and women who have given their lives in defense of this country, versus Pentagon Day, where we would honor the clout the Pentagon has in shaping the federal budget and our foreign policy.  So, all things considered, I’d rather remember the many mistakes we’ve made—in the hopes of not repeating them—by keeping the disastrous Pullman Strike in living memory instead of honoring the self-interest of the labor organizations.

Nevertheless, Monday was Labor Day, which marks the end of the crazy days of summer and the commencement of more regular workdays.  Many families—especially families that rely on the supports available throughout the school year—have two different sets of routine: school routines and non-school routines.  I wouldn’t want the school routines to go all year long, because the boys do need the freedom of the summer.  But, there’s also something very beneficial to the increased structure of school time.  For them, some of both is good; though the nature of the summer holiday seems a bit too much of a good thing sometimes.

For me, my productivity tends to go down in the summer.  Not only do I have extended periods where the boys require my attention, I also have the increase in volume when they’re home.  And it’s a big increase of volume.

Whether the boys are above me or outside the window, their play tends to be loud.  Loud and my ears don’t like each other.  So, my concentration goes down, my expendable time goes down, and betwixt the both of them, my productivity goes down.

Of course, my work-life is designed to accommodate my family’s need for flexibility, so that’s not a problem.  Life gets busy, and I slow down at work.  Life gets slow, and I speed up.  The give-and-take works for me.  But now it’s time to change gears and get to work, making up for “lost” time and all of that.  So, here’s to Labor!